What Causes Neck Pain?

First let’s look at some neck imaging.  Even a layperson can see what’s wrong on these x-rays and MRI images.  Take a look, and I’ll tell you what they all have in common, as the source of pain.

compression of C5-6 vertebraeSee compression, above, of C5-6 disc.

all the bones are compressedSee compression of all discs and vertebrae, above, resulting in deformity.multiple herniations compressing cord See compression of 3 discs, C3-4, C4-5 and C5-6, above, with resulting deformity of vertebrae, and cord compression.  COMPRESSION is the common theme, and cause, of 98+% of neck and back pain.

large, compressing, herniated disc See the large, herniated disc at C5-6, compressing the spinal cord.  The dark areas in the vertebrae represent previous fusion surgeries.

Almost all neck pain is caused by compressive problems, like these.  The compressive problems, above, are severe.  But they exist, to lesser degrees, earlier in the process.  And the nature of these problems, is that they’re compressive. If you have neck, shoulder, scapular and pain between your shoulder blades, the probability is about 95% or more, that you have disc/osteophyte complexes that are causing what we call “referred pain” from you neck. The disc/osteophyte complexes are combinations of disc degeneration, bulging and herniations, with associated boney degeneration, i.e. spurring, that causes pain in these areas. Depending on the combination of symptoms you’re having, a doctor like me, i.e. a spine specialist, can come pretty close to diagnosing the problem without even looking at x-rays or an MRI scan.

Not surprisingly, surgery to treat neck pain is decompressive in nature.  Surgery removes disc, or raises vertebrae, or removes bone or ligament or cartilage, in order to reduce compression and alleviate pain.  That is how, and why, surgery works.

Treatment for neck pain should also be decompressive in nature.  That is also the most effective, non-surgical treatment.  But, strangely, while medicine embraces surgical decompression, they ignore non-surgical decompression.  Why?  Probably, money.  Surgical decompression makes money; non-surgical decompression does not.  Given this fact, non-surgical decompression will not become popular.  Do you think science is the highest value in the practice of medicine.  Wrong- money is.  That’s just human nature.

If I can help you with your neck pain, call me at 404-558-4015.